Tag Archives: Valerie Tejeda

Not Her Kind

By Valerie Tejeda

tejeda-hollywoodI remember it like it was yesterday- the huge blue sky, the sun beating on my skin, and trees as far as the eye can see. I was on a family vacation in one of the most beautiful cities in the midwest. At only ten-years-old, I hadn’t traveled much outside of California so I was overly excited about driving from city to city in an RV with my family and some family friends.

After over a day of driving, we finally arrived at one of our destinations and I couldn’t have been more eager to explore the stunning grounds. We came across a small ice cream shop and all the parents agreed it was the perfect place to stop for a snack.

I was obsessed with mint chocolate chip at the moment, so naturally, I didn’t protest.

The shop was adorable with white windows and a light blue trim. With my friend right behind me, I opened the door to the shop and suddenly, the store went quiet. I’m talking, quiet to the point where you could literally hear a pin drop. To my surprise, everyone in the shop was staring at me and I remember quickly looking down.

I made my way up to the counter where there was a tall, blonde woman standing behind it, who looked to be in her forties. Her face was cold as stone, and she looked rather unhappy for a woman who was working in a ice cream shop.

“What are you going to get?” I whispered to my friend.

“Rocky road,” she quickly said, which wasn’t surprising because this was always her flavor of choice.

I nodded and inched closer to the counter, figuring I would take the initiative and order first. “Could I please have two scoops of mint chocolate chip in a cone?“ I said. I was always taught to say please and thank you to everyone, so ordering ice cream was no exception.

The woman immediately turned away, as though I was not even speaking to her. I tried again. “Excuse me miss? Could I please get two scoops of the mint chip ice cream in a cone?” Again nothing.

I looked around the store and everyone had their faces down. No one would look at me.

As my confusion began to grow, the ice cream clerk brushed over me and looked at my friend (who also had blonde hair and blue eyes) and asked her what kind of ice cream she wanted. My friend was quiet and before she could say a word, her mother walked through the door.

“Girls, have you ordered?” my friend’s mom asked.

“Um. I did, but I don’t think she heard me,” I reasoned before trying again. “May I have two scoops of mint chocolate chip please?” Again, no response from the woman who still wouldn’t look at me.

“Ma’am,” my friend’s mom said. “Can you please get her some mint chocolate chip?” Now, the woman ignored her.

“Excuse me, why won’t you get her ice cream?”

The ice cream clerk huffed. “Look. We don’t serve her kind here,” she snapped.

My friend’s mom literally took a step back. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Latinos or Indians.”

What she said hit me like a ton of bricks. Growing up in a family with mixed ethnicities was just a normal part of life living in Southern California. I’m half Latina, and also North African and Jewish and luckily, living in Los Angeles I never really experienced much racism because the city was so diverse.

But this incident in the midwest stuck with me, and I remember getting home from that vacation and wanting to lose myself in books, TV, and movies, desperately looking for characters like me. But the thing was, I couldn’t find any, and after being treated poorly on vacation, this lack of representation made me feel like something was wrong with me.

Everything sort of spiraled downhill from there. I remember many nights crying to my mom, asking her, “Why don’t I have blonde hair and blue eyes?” She would always tell me that my dark hair and dark eyes made me beautiful, but I didn’t believe her.

I remember spending many of my early teen years trying to get my hair lighter by spraying on lemon juice and laying out in the sun. My hair ended up turning a dreadful color of orange but as long as it wasn’t dark brown I was happy. I also made sure to put on the highest SPF when I did spend time in the sun, to make sure my skin did not become any darker. I even started to tell people I was “Italian, not Latina,” whenever anyone would ask me.

But after all those years of not being able to accept who I was, something truly amazing happened – Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria, and Shakira all started to make waves in entertainment. Believe it or not, seeing these Latinas killing it in the entertainment industry helped me to become more confident in who I was. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder, if I would’ve seen diverse characters in books after the incident on vacation, would it have affected me as much?

When I started to write my debut novel Hollywood With Hunter it was a no-brainer to have diverse characters from all walks of life and to have my main character Latina. This was non-negotiable for me.

The whole reason I stuck to my guns and fought so hard for diversity is because I wrote the character that I believe I needed as a child and teenager, especially after getting treated like a nobody on vacation.

The need for diverse books is vital, and this is why I will always keep writing them.

Valerie Tejeda
Valerie Tejeda

Valerie Tejeda is an entertainment journalist and author who spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including: Vanity Fair, MTV, The Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Latina, Yahoo! Shine, Cosmopolitan, and more. Hollywood Witch Hunter is her YA debut.

Hollywood Witch Hunter is available for purchase.

New Releases – July 2015

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (Spencer Hill Press)

Book Description: Young actor Josh Chester has never been sure that acting is for him–he’s mostly interested in the parties and the hot Hollywood girls that come with the job. But he ends up taking a job on the hit TV series Daylight Falls, opposite Vanessa Park, a girl who is immune to his charms and also his polar opposite. Vanessa loves her job, despite her parents’ disapproval. She’s pretty certain about everything in her life, until she meets her new career handler, a gorgeous girl named Bri. Then things start to get a little confusing.

Under the Lights features an adorable romance between two young women, all set against the backdrop of Hollywood. As Vanessa confronts her emerging feelings for her handler, Bri, her co-star Josh confronts his realization that the Hollywood scene might not really be his cup of tea. Under the Lights is a story of self-discovery: learning that the person you always thought you were might not actually be the case anymore.

You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison (HMH Books for Young Readers)

“By junior year Maggie is resigned to being the overweight girl who will never be an A-lister. But she doesn’t dwell on it … and she has a great job at a record store. She also has a faithful best friend in Nash, who shares her taste in “teachers, music, art, literature, and boys.” Conflicts emerge when “new guy” Tom enters the scene, making Maggie’s and Nash’s hearts flutter. … In this compassionate first novel, Dinnison adeptly portrays the rising and falling hopes within an unconventional love triangle.” — Publishers Weekly

Adrift by Paul Griffin (Scholastic)

“In a terrifying survival story in which past traumas are as visceral and intense as present circumstances, five teenagers try to stay alive after becoming lost off the Atlantic coast. Raised in a blue-collar neighborhood in Queens, friends Matt and John are working in Montauk, N.Y., for the summer when they meet 17-year-old Driana Gonzaga, her Brazilian cousin Estefania, and Estefania’s boyfriend, João. … Profound moments … will haunt readers as much as the lethal injuries, worsening weather, class friction, and psychological instability the teenagers face.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Paperweight by Meg Haston (HarperTeen)

“This realistic tale opens as Stephanie (Stevie) arrives at a 60-day residential treatment facility for eating disorder, located in rural New Mexico. … Despite her flaws, it is hard not to feel for Stevie. A carefully constructed buildup still lends to a quick read, which is hard to put down. Haston deals respectfully with the difficult subject matters of eating disorders and focuses on the recovery rather than the disease.” — School Library Journal

Deceptive by Emily Lloyd-Jones (Little, Brown BFYR)

Book Description: You don’t belong with us.

These are the words that echo through the minds of all immune Americans-those suffering the so-called adverse effects of an experimental vaccine, including perfect recall, telepathy, precognition, levitation, mind control, and the ability to change one’s appearance at will.

When great numbers of immune individuals begin to disappear, fear and tension mount, and unrest begins to brew across the country. Through separate channels, superpowered teenagers Ciere, Daniel, and Devon find themselves on the case: super criminals and government agents working side by side. It’s an effort that will ultimately define them all, for better or for worse.

The Blind Wish by Amber Lough (Random House BFYR)

“As in the series opener, Zayele—raised as a human and untrained in using her magic—makes the titular wish and sets certain events in motion. The heart of this story is really twofold: how the sisters and secondary (human) characters Yashar and Rahela begin to find their places in a rapidly changing world; and the action-packed war that ends only in the face of an even bigger threat, ultimately pitting two human-jinn alliances against one another. … Enjoyable, thoughtful, packed with action, consequences, and a few kisses—readers will wish for a third book right away.” — Kirkus

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)

“The conclusion to the ”Metamorphoses“ trilogy (St. Martin’s) follows Tally to a small town outside of Seattle where she seeks out her maybe-father to learn more about her past and her family. The place feels full of magic and people who intrigue her. Tally has a hard time thinking straight here, and her dreams are filled with vivid and terrifying images of blood. She falls for the mysterious Maddy, a girl who seems to hold the answers to her many questions. … This edgy, smart, and challenging title combines mythology, punk rock, science, a quest, feminism, art, dreams, and the power of stories and storytelling with unforgettable results. The well-developed cast of characters is racially and sexually diverse. The emphasis on the importance of female relationships—as family, as lovers, and as friends—is a welcome exploration of the many levels of intimacy. ” — School Library Journal, starred review

Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

“Academic ambition and hip-hop intersect in the South Bronx, where two friends spend a summer growing up and, unwillingly, apart. Quintero details the summer of 1983, when the teens work what appears to be their final summer together as camp counselors. Raymond ”Smiles“ King is a smart, ambitious black teenager who has recently lost his mom to sickle cell anemia, and Guillermo ”Nike“ Vega is a Nuyorican Casanova and break-dancer who attempts to woo beautiful Sara, a new, mysterious girl in their neighborhood. … The story is powerful and thought-provoking, an homage to a climactic hip-hop era, when friends are caught between aspirations and predetermined social disadvantages. A must-read for fans of Walter Dean Myers’ All the Right Stuff and other lovers of proud urban realism.” — Kirkus

Down by Law by Ni-Ni Simone (Dafina)

Book Description: Lesson #1: You come for me, I come back even harder for you. Fair exchange. No robberies.

Isis Carter got schooled early on in surviving the streets. When some girls put a beatdown on her, she took back what was hers. When her brother was killed and her mom, Queenie, bailed, Isis fought to stay strong. And when her dad abandoned her for his new family, sixteen-year-old Isis buried the hurt by looking out for herself—and hookin’ up with bad boy Fresh…until a run-in with the law shatters Isis’s world and threatens to destroy her future.

Now the only person Isis can rely on is herself…until her secret crush K-Rock steps in. But when Isis lets her guard down, will she be given a second chance to get her life straight or will it cost her everything?

Hollywood Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda (Bloomsbury Spark)

Book Description: From the moment she first learned the truth about witches…she knew she was born to fight them. Now, at sixteen, Iris is the lone girl on the Witch Hunters Special Ops Team. But when Iris meets a boy named Arlo, he might just be the key to preventing an evil uprising in Southern California. Together they’re ready to protect the human race at all costs. Because that’s what witch hunters do. Welcome to Hollywood.

Naked by Stacey Trombley (Entangled Teen)

Book Description: When tough teenager Anna ran away to New York, she never knew how bad things would get. After surviving as a prostitute, a terrifying incident leaves her damaged inside and out, and she returns home to the parents she was sure wouldn’t want her anymore.

Now she has a chance to be normal again. Back in school, she meets a boy who seems too good to be true. Cute, kind, trusting. But what will he do when he finds out the truth about her past? And when a dark figure from New York comes looking for Anna, she realizes she must face her secrets…before they destroy her.

(Main character is half Puerto Rican.)

The New Order by Chris Weitz (Little, Brown BFYR)

Book Description: They thought they were the only ones left. They were wrong. After the unexpected revelation at the end of the first book, Donna and Jefferson are separated. Jefferson returns to NYC and tries to bring a cure to the Sickness back to the Washington Square tribe, while Donna finds herself in England, facing an unimaginable new world. Can the two reunite and prevent an even greater disaster than the Sickness? This second book in The Young World trilogy will keep you at the edge of your seat.